Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Support Public Montessori

Dear Friends of Montessori For All,

The time has finally come for us to submit our application to the state of Texas to open the first public Montessori schools in Austin and San Antonio. We will turn in our application to the Texas Education Agency tomorrow, and we would greatly benefit from your support today.

By clicking on the link below, you can use a credit card or a PayPal account to donate money to Montessori For All. If you donate today or tomorrow, we can include your tax-deductible donation in our application and further demonstrate to the state that overwhelming support exists for the concept of Montessori For All.

The road to this point has been long, but we are honored and excited by the important task of making a high-quality education open to all families without a private school price-tag.

I have personally volunteered the past year of my life to work part-time as the Executive Director of Montessori For All. Over the course of a year, our team of committed volunteers (including board members, advisory board members, and parent/guardian volunteers) has been able to achieve the following:
  • Raised $400,000 in start-up funding and pledges from private donors and a plethora of local and national foundations, such as the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the Webber Family Foundation. This kind of support for a start-up organization is rare, and it speaks to the uniqueness and timeliness of our model and mission. 
  • Connected with more than 450 families interested in enrolling in our schools in Austin and San Antonio.
  • Met with more than 50 community leaders, organizations, politicians, educators, and business owners to build momentum behind the idea of public Montessori and to lay the foundation for partnerships and future collaboration.
  • Built a diverse, resourceful, efficient, and effective Board of Directors and Advisory Board and received 501(c)(3) status.
We have done everything within our power to create the strongest possible application, so that we can bring public Montessori to Austin and San Antonio and beyond. We look forward to partnering with families to help children in diverse communities reach their extraordinary potential intellectually, emotionally, socially, creatively, and physically, so that they can pursue lives full of meaning and joy.

Thank you in advance for any help you are able to give. It truly takes a village.

With gratitude,

Sara Cotner
Founder & Executive Director, Montessori For All
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Nora said...

Can you explain further why you call your charter school "public Montessori"? I'm confused because there are several serious differences between public school structure, staffing, and community role and the services offered by charters.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Nora! Charter schools are public schools because they receive public funding from the state and federal government and are open-enrollment, meaning they take all children regardless of special needs or disabilities.

They are also subject to standardized testing at the state level, as well as most state and federal regulations (IDEA, National School Breakfast program, etc.).

Nora said...

Thank you. That helps. I found this after I left my comment:

In the blurry space where charter schools lie, some truly are more public-ish, while others (especially for-profit schools) veer from that. I appreciate that you're trying to maintain some of the benefits and responsibilities of public education in your school.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Nora, my heart is in "public" education. I believe that education has the potential to create opportunities for all children (in a society that pretends to be a "meritocracy" but really isn't).

But after a decade of working in education, I grew weary of always having to "fight the system" within a district setting. I wanted to spend my energy innovating and moving kids forward. That's why I found my way to the charter movement. I have never worked with a for-profit charter school and am wary of the concept. But I know a ton of awesome non-profit charter schools. It all depends on which state you live in.

Nora said...

Yes, yes, and yes. Thanks for your response. My mom is a life-long public school teacher, and we went to only public schools (in the second biggest school district in Michigan, Grand Rapids), and grew up hearing the ways that new charter schools were causing real challenges for public schools. But we were also lucky to have a public Montessori elementary, middle, and high in our school district. Still, I watched my mom, my favorite teachers, and now some of my friends become exhausted by the fight against the system, rearrangement of their workplace with each new superintendent, etc. Still, it's now in my veins to be wary of charter schools until I have good evidence otherwise. Thanks for your care and concern for justice for all students as you enter this project (I mean that sincerely).

Sara E. Cotner said...

Just one more thought to share: Implementing less mainstream approaches to education (like Montessori) is even more difficult within a public district setting. The system is inherently political between the school board and the superintendent, so every time there's some kind of turnover, support for Montessori can wax and wane. It's incredibly frustrating.

Nora said...

Yes, I agree. I saw that waxing and waning in the Montessori school I attended as a kid in the 90s, and it's so hard on teachers who are working to make effective and creative classrooms for students. Thank you for the immense amount of work you're putting into making Montessori an option for more students. Truly, school systems and schooling options seem to have become even more complex over the past few decades since I was a kid in the heyday of magnet schools. Hopefully some of that complexity will lead to increased access to excellent schools for all students. I appreciate your work and your pragmatism.

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